Never Say Never Literacy Volunteer Dedicated to Teaching Everyone

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Byline: Eric Krol Daily Herald Staff Writer

Bev Cohen Saiz knows she can't teach everyone to speak, read and write English, but that hasn't stopped her and more than 300 volunteers from trying.

Cohen is the executive director of the Literacy Connection, a non-profit Elgin agency affiliated with the national organization Literacy Volunteers of America.

Together with 200 adult and 100 teen volunteers, Cohen's Literacy Connection helps about 1,500 local residents learn to speak English or improve their reading and writing skills.

She also is this week's Architect for a Better Elgin.

The organization was started in the basement of the Gail Borden Library in 1983 by Barbara Clark, wife of former Elgin Community College President Cyril Clark.

When the Clarks left town, Cohen inherited an operation that featured one program and about 60 people.

Today, Literacy Connection offers five programs and helps more than 1,500 people a year and has a waiting list.

"We try very hard," Cohen said. "There are a lot of people needing help."

About 60 percent of Literacy Connection's adult clients are Hispanic.

One of the organization's main programs is teaching English to non-English speakers, but the program is not limited to Spanish. Cohen said Literacy Connection teaches English to people from 23 different countries, including Poland, Japan, Nigeria and France. …